Nearly 300 restaurants in New York City are under kosher supervision, most of them by the Orthodox Union. In 2004, New York State’s kosher fraud law was struck down as unconstitutional, increasing reliance on private certifiers to assure the kosher integrity of restaurant food.
In its March 6 article, “Rabbis with Blowtorches: The Business of Kosher Restaurants,” Crain’s New York Business quoted Professor Timothy Lytton, the author of Kosher: Private Regulation in the Age of Industrial Food (Harvard University Press 2013). Lytton asserts that “five organizations control 80% of the [kosher certification] business, with the [Orthodox Union] dominating the field.” The article speculated that the Orthodox Union “likely generates about $80 million in revenue annually.…Only about 10% of that comes from restaurant certification, for which it typically charges $1,300 a month.”
Timothy D. Lytton is a Distinguished University Professor and Professor of Law at Georgia State University College of Law and a member of the Center for Law, Health & Society. His research examines health and safety regulation with a focus on food policy. He is the author of Kosher: Private Regulation in the Age of Industrial Food (Harvard U. Press 2013) and is currently writing a book on the U.S. food safety system.